Prior to the start of the National Health Service in 1948, Fife was seriously underprivileged in terms of general hospital services. Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline had surgical hospitals staffed, in addition to General Practitioners, by visiting consultants from Edinburgh. Although both towns also had maternity and fever hospitals and the services of a venereologist, neither had a general physician - patients requiring medical treatment were sent to Dundee, Edinburgh or Perth. St Andrews, Cupar and Buckhaven had cottage hospitals opened in 1902, 1905 and 1909 respectively. With the advent of the N.H.S., Fife became the responsibility of the South East Scotland Regional Board in Edinburgh and consultant physicians and full time consultant surgeons were appointed in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline.

In these early days, laboratory services were not provided in Fife. Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh sent their interesting specimens to the laboratory at the College in Edinburgh. Specimens for clinical chemistry (and microbiology) were either posted or delivered to the departments in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Haematology was considered to be a "side room" activity. Specimens for cross matching for blood transfusion were also sent to Edinburgh - usually by train and the blood was sent by the next available train. (An important piece of "laboratory information" for the medical staff was the times of the first and last trains.) (ref: 57)

In 1952 vacant wards in the Fever Hospital (built in 1911) at Cameron Bridge, near Methil, were converted into three laboratory units with a central office/common room. This was done under the supervision of a retired technician from Edinburgh, Mr Leiper, who acted as caretaker/receptionist and Leslie Easson was seconded from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to establish the biochemistry laboratory. (ref: 57)

Easson had an early academic career in the Department of Chemistry in Relation to Medicine in Edinburgh University, where he had graduated, and had moved to Carlisle in 1937 to develop a clinical chemistry service there. With the establishment of the National Health Service, he moved to Truro, Cornwall, to repeat this role before taking up an academic post in the Department of Clinical Chemistry at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1948/49. Part of his initial duties included the establishing of the service at Bangour Hospital.

Bill Richmond, born at Springfield, Fife, in 1941 and educated at Bell Baxter School, Cupar, and St Andrews University, had his first job at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy. He then went to the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park, Harrow where, in1973, he developed a rapid, simple and reproducible enzymatic method for the measurement of cholesterol a time when testing required the use of hazardous chemicals such as hydrochloric acid. He spent the rest of his career at hospitals in the London area, becoming principal biochemist at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, in 1980, and consultant clinical scientist and head of department in 1989. (ref: 193)

Although it was intended that a major new hospital be built at the Fever Hospital at Cameron Bridge, it was in Kirkcaldy that the new hospital was eventually built. The first phase opened in 1961. The new Fife District Laboratory (redesignated Fife Area Laboratory when the NHS was reorganised in the mid 1970s) was included in phase two and opened in 1967. A branch laboratory was opened at West Fife Hospital in Dunfermline in 1960/62. By this time (1967), Easson's attachment to Edinburgh was minimal and he became a full time member of the staff in Fife and the first Consultant in Administrative Charge. He retired to Kinghorn, Fife, in 1969 and died in 1985. (ref: 50, 57)

In 1969 DD Kennedy, from Liverpool, was appointed as Consultant. He was particularly involved in the further development of automation which had been restricted previously by inadequate funding.

Lesley Cranfield, who was in Southend from 1988, worked in the laboratory during the summers from 1971 to 74 when she was a student. She started the MSc course at Surrey University in 1974.

Shortly after the appointment of D Ronald Mackenzie as multi-disciplinary Principal MLSO in 1977, there was an industrial dispute concerning the management roles of Consultants, Top Grade Scientists and MLSOs. Kennedy left during this period (in 1979) to take up an appointment in Grimsby. In 1980 Andrew P Kenny, who had recently retired as Top Grade Biochemist at Glasgow Victoria Infirmary, was appointed as locum Top Grade to allow time for the dispute to be resolved. He held the post for two years until conditions had improved sufficiently for a permanent appointment to be made and, shortly after his second retirement (in 1982), he died in 1983. (ref: 5, 57)

In 1982, Iain RF Brown, an Edinburgh graduate who went to Khartoum, Africa, (1975 to 76) prior to working in St George's Hospital, London, was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist. He retired in 2002.

The management dispute, was not finally resolved until Mackenzie's retiral in 1985. (ref: 57)

Among the biochemists who have worked/are working in Fife were Miss McAuley (1953 to 1955), Miss B Stewart (1952 to 1958), Leon P Farrell (1959 to 1964), Janet Dodds (1966 to 1967), Dr Cruikshanks (1967 to 1968), Jean Forshall (1966 to 1967), K Edwards (1968 to 1970), W Richmond (to 1969), J Drummond (1969 to 1975), Mrs E Allan (1970 to 1973) and Fiona McIntosh (1975 to 1980). Lesley Cranfield, who was appointed in Southend in 1988, worked as a student in the summers of 1971 to 1974 before going to Guildford to do the MSc Course.

In 1964 Farrell was appointed in St Mary's, Paddington and then was appointed as Senior Biochemist in Dundee Royal Infirmary in 1966. He took an appointment with Beckman ca. 1970, was Senior Biochemist at Stracathro Hospital, Brechin Angus (from 1971 to 1976) and was appointed as Principal Biochemist at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee 1976. Forshall was appointed as Senior Biochemist at Bangour Hospital in 1967. (ref: 50, 57)

Alastair Todd was appointed in 1974 and was the Top Grade Biochemist when he retired in 2003).

Alastair McBain was appointed in 1981 and retired in 2012.

Philip Wenham was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist in 2003. He came from Shewsbury and Birmingham ((1975 - 76) to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1976 as a Basic Grade Biochemist. In 1976 he was appointed as Senior (1978), studied for his PhD under AF Smith (1980 to 1985) and was appointed Principal (1987) Biochemist and later as Top Grade Biochemist. He retired in 2016.

Dr Fiona Stefanowicz was appointed as a Grade A Trainee on 2005.

Heather Holmes replaced Alastair McBain.

Rebecca Pattenden, from Selly Oak, Birmingham, and Senior Biochemist in Dundee from 2001, was appointed as Principal Biochemist in 2006. She was appointed as Consultant Biochemist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh in 2013.

Return to Introduction / Index

Last updated March 2017